A closer look at inner workings of the Civic Center
By Gena Latrell
The Lake Charles Civic Center is the city’s downtown destination for entertainment, hosting formal Mardi Gras balls, monster truck shows, weddings, festivals, concerts, banquets and other festivities.
The three-level complex includes the 8,000-seat coliseum, 2,000-seat Rosa Hart Theatre, Exhibition Hall, Mezzanine, three meeting rooms and a variety of conference rooms and suites.
Outside, the Arcade Amphitheatre — a covered pavilion-stage area — and the Lakefront Promenade serve as additional venues. The city also regulates the use of the Bord du Lac Marina, located on the Civic Center grounds.
Jim Pottorff has managed the Civic Center for the last four years. During that time, he said they “have seen a steady increase in the number of events.”
“Some of our rooms are booked more than a year in advance, and we are currently booking into 2021,” Pottorff said.
He said events are “ultimately booked on a first-come, first-served basis,” though the staff tries to accommodate specific date requests.
A typical day starts at 7 a.m. and “can end sometimes into the early morning hours of the next day,” Pottorff said. When he’s not overseeing events, he said he usually is working out details of an upcoming show over the phone with promoters and tour managers.
Annually, the Civic Center hosts about 20 Mardi Gras balls, more than 100 weddings — sometimes up to three at once — and many private events.
None of this, Pottorff said, would be possible without the 21 full-time employees and eight part-time workers. Before an event, he said he asks them if they “can pull this off.”
“They always find a way to make it happen,” Pottorff said.
One time, he said the crew removed “about 24,000 square feet of 1-foot-thick packed dirt” from a monster truck show in 24 hours. They then took down the scoreboard for the first time and cleaned the arena to host Cirque du Soleil the next morning.
“That’s an example of this crew’s skill,” Pottorff said.
The Civic Center continues to boost the city’s economy. It hosted 347 events last year, and Pottorff said they are “on track” to handle 392 events this year.
Upcoming events include the Shrine Circus, the Gulf Coast Rollergirls, Sesame Street Live, the Michael Jackson “Thriller” Tribute show and World Wrestling Entertainment. “Paw Patrol Live”— an upcoming show geared toward toddlers and young children — took four years of negotiation with Nickelodeon, he said.
“We have the best view and easiest access in town, and we are the most versatile venue around,” Pottorff said. “We are blessed to be booked so often, and we work hard to make events that happen here exceptional and memorable.”
For more information about the Civic Center, visit cityoflakecharles.com.
This is the third in a series of stories focusing on the economic impact of event centers in Southwest Louisiana.
‘Some of our rooms are booked more than a year in advance, and we are currently booking into 2021.’
Civic Center manager
Locals got the opportunity to see all the royalty from local Krewes during the annual Mardi Gras Royal Gala at the Civic Center in Lake Charles, La., Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)
Last year’s Christmas decorations around the Lake Charles Civic Center included a McNeese State University cowboy on a bucking horse near a Christmas tree. (Rick Hickman / American Press Archives)
Johnny Allen and Louisiana Express entertains the crowd during the Marshland Festival at the Civic Center in Lake Charles, La., Saturday, July 28, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)
Governor John Bel Edwards speaks during the Rural Water Association at the Civic Center in Lake Charles, La., Tuesday, July 17, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)
during the Don Rick Gun and Knife show at the Civic Center in Lake Charles, La., Sunday, June 17, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)